New to Waldorf...my concerns - Mothering Forums

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Old 12-06-2011, 09:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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First off, there is so much that I love about Waldorf education. It echoes many things that we've been doing at home for some time and I think DS is going to be very happy there (Kindergarten).

 

I do have a couple concerns that I'm wondering if some of you more experienced moms could address:

 

1. There is something very...serious...about the Waldorf classroom. Before we moved here DS was in a preschool program (which incorporated many Waldorf ideas) that just seemed so much more...joyous. There was a lot of laughing, hugging, squealing, etc. There is an aloofness to our Waldorf classroom. DS is a typical rambunctious boy. He can be serious and has a great attention span, but he also likes to be silly, wild, and loud at times. I wonder how this will be received in the Waldorf classroom.

 

2. I see a lack of "manly" male role models in the Waldorf community. Don't get me wrong, I am generally very unconcerned with gender and gender stereotypes (my DS asked for a calico dress this year for Christmas after reading Little House on the Prairie, lol). DH, while athletic, is not particularly into sports and would much more likely be found at a book reading than a hockey game. Regardless, I wonder how it would be for a boy growing up in the community. At the school wide festivals I've been to, I see a lot of women. I see a few artistic, bookish, thin men. I would prefer to expose my children to a wide variety of positive adult role models so that they may find someone to relate to regardless of who they decide to become. Is this just my school? Or do you think these are just the people Waldorf attracts?

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Old 12-06-2011, 09:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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And to give you a little more background, we have only been in this classroom for a couple weeks transitioning. He will begin in earnest in January. I have, however, gone to many of the festivals there in the past, so I'm fairly familiar with the community :)

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Old 12-07-2011, 12:35 AM
 
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I think it really depends on the community. My DS' teacher is a 6'5 huge man who engages in historical reenactments and blacksmiths in his spare time! :-) My DS is in the 3rd class and will have his teacher til he finishes 6th grade. There are two other male teachers in his very small school, as well.

 

At any rate, I don't know your community, but most very early childhood education, in whatever form, is dominated by women. Before my DS transitioned to Waldorf, most of his teachers, classroom assistants, etc. were women. Are there more men at other levels of your Waldorf community? If not, would it be substantially different at a different sort of school? [I'm *not* trying to sell you on Waldorf! I just think a lack of men in elementary/primary school education is pretty much a given, unfortunately, in almost any school system!]

 

I would think the aloofness you feel would be a more serious issue, for me at least. If you and your DS don't feel comfortable in the classroom, then that would be something to explore more deeply.

 

I think people get very caught up in the idea of Waldorf. They love the aesthetics and think it's going to be perfect. When it isn't, for whatever combination of reasons, I think they get far more disillusioned than they would if they were in a different sort of school system (I see this, to a lesser extent, with Montessori, as well). Not all schools work well for all children. And, frankly, it can have far less to do with the Waldorf approach, per se, than with the teacher and the "click"  a child might have with the teacher and other students.

 

I would see how it goes in January and take it from there.

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Old 12-07-2011, 06:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes, that's my plan. As I said, I think we will be happy there and for the most part it feels like a great fit. I suppose these are more thoughts than concerns...

 

Love your description of your DS's teacher! I think you are right about early childhood in general being dominated by women...which is fine. At this point it's not a concern, I am just musing about the future.

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Old 12-07-2011, 08:35 PM
 
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Welcome!  I've not experienced what I would call 'aloofness' in the Kindergarten so I am having trouble imagining it how it looks to you.  I am wondering if you and I are using the word differently.   In my children's classes, the indoor play at times can get quite loud (loud enough that as a parent I would think "OMG, how do the teachers DO THIS?"- LOL) as for 'rambunctious' if you mean physical like running, or more like wrestling? That I have not seen indoors and the classrooms are not usually big enough for running play (though I've seen group jumproping indoors). There is definitely a calmer play indoors and a 'bigger' play for outdoors. I would not be overly concerned yet, your son will likely adapt to the differing play inside and outside. I've heard teachers say before "that is for outside play," or vice versa if a young child wants to take an indoor toy outdoors.

 

As for the males, it really seems to differ. I have been at schools with more than one male class teacher, male specialty teachers, but none in early childhood.  Now we are at a school with no male class teachers, but one in early childhood and a couple subject teachers in the high school.  Sometimes there are men in administration, sometimes not.  ITA, I think in general it is a field that attracts women, regardless of type of school. Plus it's hard to be the traditional main-wage earner on a private school teacher's salary (IMHO).  Not that the man in the family has to fill that role, of course, but he often does.

 

 

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Old 12-08-2011, 10:05 AM
 
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Hi!  I'd say I agree with all the previous responses, and I can also say that I have experienced what I'll call aloofness too.  As best I can tell, I think it is a product of the fact that Waldorf classrooms and communities tend to be mindful and reverent, and tend to encourage quiet observation, the ability to simply "be," etc.  Which means that sometimes when a parent/child class, or even group of parents are together, everyone may be savoring the whole experience, but without a lot of chatter and small talk.  I felt this way too at times, but after a few months of getting to know folks, have found it very warm. 

 

I'd say, just give it a while before you form any opinions.  Let it unfold! 


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Old 12-08-2011, 09:44 PM
 
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 Hi there! I'm not a mom, but I am a member of the Waldorf community as a teacher in training. So I can only address your concerns from my point of view, but I hope they'll still be helpful!

 

 In my experience, the Waldorf classroom ebbs and flows in its energy level. That is the goal for the classroom environment--to have times of great energy and times of quiet calm (exhale and inhale, if you will). From my classroom observations (second grade), I saw a classroom that mirrored what I remembered about elementary school in many ways. There was the hubbub of coming inside after recess, giggles and chatter to friends. There was also a teacher who knew her students well enough to keep them at a decent level of restraint. As they prepared for their painting lesson, they gathered all of the necessary tools while singing songs together and reciting favorite verses. Then during painting time the room was silent as the students concentrated on their work. There was a level of seriousness...but I didn't get the sensation of heavy control or fear from the students. It was a seriousness from focus, engagement, and reverence. After the exercise was over, they became lively once again and played hand clapping games and chit-chatted. I think that the experiences one observes in the Waldorf classroom are heavily dependent on the teacher. Those that I have observed have been fantastic.

 

 To address your second concern--the men I have met in my Waldorf community have varied just as the women have. There are feminine men and masculine men. There is the sensitive, waiflike music teacher and the burly wood carving teacher with his deep Russian accent. And there are all types in-between. I would not worry so much about the male influence at the Waldorf school. People there come in all shapes and sizes, just like in the rest of the world. Besides, your son will be exposed to more men than just at his school!

 

 Hope this helps!

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Old 12-09-2011, 09:04 AM
 
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Your concerns are very common and something to really think about, there are a lot of discussions, threads and articles relating to Waldorf working better for those with girls and not working for most boys, for the same reasons your concerned.

 

Ive been to approximately 8 different Waldorf schools and the female to male ratio seems consistent, with 8/10 being girls, currently our class is all girls. I can see it being difficult for boys because they physically develop faster than girls, for the most part, so they need room to run and be active. If you are committed to a Waldorf education, stick with it for the duration of your child's educatinal career, because transition can be difficult, it's a good idea to start a rhythm early and remain consistent till the teenage years.


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Old 12-09-2011, 01:36 PM
 
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We went to check out our local Waldorf school last weekend. They were having a craft fair and I wanted to see if it would be a good fit for DS. It was apparent almost immediately that it would not. I didn't even bother to go into the room where they had people talking about the school itself.

 

The "aloofness" as you noticed, was THICK. We were in the craft fair part and instead of allowing DS to look with his eyes at the crafts being sold (and God forbid, pick up a cloth doll or wooden truck to look at), he was immediately directed to a corner where there were trains to play with. Fine. While he was playing, I noticed a sign for a toy that was for sale, but had no price. I went over to the table to ask about it, and could not get anyone's attention to save my life. There were two people shopping and being helped by two of the women behind the table. There were 3 more women working in the room (two behind the table, talking to each other about whether there were enough wooden acorns out on display) and no one would make eye contact for me to get their attention. Finally, I said, "Excuse me...." and still couldn't get a response. Then the woman who was not behind the table said something to the two women, so I asked her if she was working there. She said yes, so I asked how much the toy was. She gave me a funny look, and said she didn't know. Then she guessed, "$25? $50? I don't know. Whatever it's worth to you. However, we ARE trying to make money for the school...." Okay, so why don't you just TELL me how much you want for it, and I'll tell you if I can do it, maybe we can meet in the middle. But I had no idea what it was worth, and felt like it would be insulting to offer what I could actually afford. I couldn't get a reasonable guesstimate out of her, so I gave up.

 

Then we tried to go on a tractor ride, but couldn't figure out who was driving. We stood around for a good 10 minutes before any adults showed up. (There were kids climbing all over the tractor, but no one supervising them.) When the man who was the driver showed up, he was NOT friendly. We asked him if he was the driver, and he barely answered us. I thought it was a fairly direct and easy-to-answer question, but maybe that's just me...

 

Finally, we had the kids out on the playground, going down the slide, etc. The kids were so unbelievably ill-mannered. I guess I expected more from students of such a special school. It was worse than most of the bad manners we see at any given day at the park.

 

So I don't know if this is part of the culture there, or if there's something I as an outsider am missing, but I definitely didn't like the vibe there at all. I did love the setting, and how natural everything was. The people were just decidedly NOT natural there. I can't imagine it's like that everywhere.

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Old 12-09-2011, 04:55 PM
 
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The last response is a very honest perspective. Within the school it is a community and all events are planned mostly by the PTA, so most people that go to the events are well prepared on what to expect, as far the children being "Ill mannered", kids have a unique ability to be free spirited and carefree, most of the time when my child is playing with others at our Waldorf school, I converse with the other mothers and our children are free to interact however they wish. If they are hurting themselves or someone else, that's when an older child will intervene and they usually settle it themselves, it's interesting to watch. At an event I understand most of the family rhythms will be off schedule, so that would explain the lack of a free flowing play environment. The best view of a Waldorf school is a walk through the grades, though Im able to admit parents get drawn to environment and don't realize there is much more to the school because we, as parents, are their first teachers, so we have to be educated more than they are.


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Old 12-09-2011, 05:12 PM
 
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For the record my son has has a far easier time 'adjusting' to the way Waldorf does things than my active daughter.  He has also been in classes which were predominantly boys who predominantly who fit just fine into the rhythm.  They were able to run and play and do active things outside of the classroom, and being Waldorf they had much time to do so. They were not discouraged from climbing things or moving logs or digging as I have sadly witnessed at a more typical school.

 

I am not a fan of pre-determining how a child will behave, especially in early childhood, based upon their gender. 

 

swd, that doesn't sound like a good experience at all. I'm sorry. If that had been my first, or even early, experience at a Waldorf school I would have been really turned off.

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Old 12-10-2011, 05:24 AM
 
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My DS' class is exactly 1/2 boys and 1/2 girls.

 

The kids get to move around all the time. They do lots of physical activities to learn things like math, punctuation, and grammar. There's far more kinetic learning going on in DS' Waldorf classroom than there ever was at his public school. I honestly never heard that Waldorf somehow suited girls better than boys!

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Old 12-10-2011, 09:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you so much for all the responses!

 

I will try to better describe the "aloofness" I am referring to. It's not at all a lack of communication or attention as swd described (that sounds like an awful experience and not at all what we have seen at our school!)

 

To explain the first part of it I was actually going to use the word "reverent" as another poster did. It's similar to the feeling I get when I am in a church (we are not religious but I have attended many services and church functions in my life). Quiet, polite, wondrous. Reverent. This is also part of what I love about Waldorf education. At our recent holiday fair, the children dipped beeswax candles, walking around a display of winter gnomes and crystals while they waited their turn to dip again. A harp player sat in the corner making beautiful music. The lighting was dim. Even my 1 year old was quiet and calm, eyes wide taking it all in. However, after a couple hours or this and other similar activities, my DS really needed to get outside for some bigger, sillier, louder play. I guess I just want to make sure there will be lots of room for both.

 

The other, perhaps more important, aspect of what I was talking about involves the way DS and his teacher interact. He will often ask a question and not really get an answer. If he asks where something came from, how it came to be, what it is for, how it works, etc. he will often be met with "hmmm, I wonder," or "it's a mystery," etc., and then his teacher will go back to what she is doing. I can see he is perplexed by this as it's not the way we handle questions of this sort at home, but at the same time not comfortable pressing for more information. (In this situation I would not necessarily give a concrete response, but help him think more deeply about it by asking him questions and maybe providing tidbits of information to help him along. Sometimes he wants to come up with a whimsical answer - ie the forest gnomes put the acorns there, and sometimes he really wants to know how something came to be - ie, "look up, what do you see in the tree?" I try to follow his lead and run with it.) Is this common or more specific to our teacher?

 

There also seems to be a physicality missing. At his previous school, upon arriving, he would sometimes just run and throw himself at one of the teachers for a hug and a snuggle. I can't see that happening in his new classroom, but that of course may change.

 

I suppose another word that would well describe it would be "restraint." I will be curious to see how the big feelings that young children so often have will be handled. I hope that they will be welcomed, but the atmosphere does not seem particularly conducive to such things.

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Old 12-10-2011, 10:37 AM
 
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I think this is a really interesting thread, and good things for any Waldorf parent to think about.  We're new to being enrolled in a Waldorf School (my dd is in first grade, so I have no experience with earlier grade levels) but I will say that one of the things I have always loved about other Waldorf schools I've visited is the lovely balance between reverence and full-bodied physical engagement.  I think your word "restraint" is a perfect description for much of what happens in the classroom, but every couple of hours the children are given uninhibited opportunity for physical, outdoor, downright "wild" play, and as another poster mentioned, total encouragement to dig, climb, etc, in a way that they would not be allowed to at a public school playground.  But even in the classroom, they say verses that involve hearty clapping and stomping, climb on an "obstacle course," hop on one foot, etc.  I see a lot of physical engagement within the classroom as well.

 

In regards to the gender issue, my dd's classroom is 50/50 male/female, and my exposure to the other grades seems like that's fairly typical.  I see Waldorf as having SO MUCH to offer to boys, in terms of learning how to be in their bodies in strong, healthy, nurturing, creative ways, and not equating "masculinity" with only sports or violence.  In terms of male role models, we do have a couple of those thin, bespeceled "effeminate" male teachers, but we also have a number of burly, hearty men.  In fact, one of my favorite thing about our school is how engaged the FATHERS are!  I see just as many fathers doing drop off/pick up, or helping in the classrooms.  It is so refreshing.  I have NEVER seen that before!

 

In closing, my favorite thing about my dd's Waldorf experience is the sweetness and sheer WARMTH of her classroom, her teacher, and the school in general.  I feel blessed every single day that this is the classroom environment that she gets to spend her days in!  I hope January goes well for you, but of course Waldorf is NOT for everyone, and don't feel bad if it doesn't sit right with you.

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Old 12-12-2011, 08:02 PM
 
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Hi there.

 

My daughter goes to a Waldorf preschool. I have had many discussions with her teachers regarding the language they use with the children. Mainly, why they prefer parents to answer children with "I wonder" rather than facts. The teachers told me that prior to age 7, they want the children to stay present in their play. When we intellectualize things for them, the children are more in their minds. This is something my husband and I struggle with because we are used to providing factual answers to all her questions. We, however, totally believe in the Waldorf philosophy so are trying to do as the teachers suggest. My daughter asks a ton of questions each day so this is quite a challenge.

 

 

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Old 12-12-2011, 08:52 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, bestillmama, for addressing that for me! I planned to ask DS's teacher about it too, but wanted some more background first.

 

I guess I am not sure how I feel about that part of it right now. I am open to being enlightened, and seeing how it works, but to someone unfamiliar with that approach it feels somewhat like side-stepping a chance to really engage. For those of you confused by my use of the word "aloof," this is a perfect example of where I feel it applies.

 

ETA: I am all for not getting too into the facts. I have been known to roll my eyes when someone launches into a lengthy explanation of the science behind why an ice cube turns into water when held in DS's hand, etc. I can literally see him tune out and it DOES take him out of the moment of joyous play. However, I do see value in engaging in a question and accompanying him on the path of exploration it brings about.

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Old 12-13-2011, 08:37 AM
 
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saraem,

I would encourage you to really listen to your instincts. 

There is a difference between warm, peaceful and loving; and restrained, aloof and judgemental.

I have found that at our local waldorf school, the "in" people that are in the community claim the former.  But to anyone coming in new, or outside the inner circle, the experience is much the latter. 

 

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Old 01-12-2012, 12:25 PM
 
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I was considering Waldorf for our daughter, but upon looking at the website, I was quite appalled to see how focused and adamant they were on vaccines!!! I thought they were antivax friendly.  Not the one in our area I guess :(

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Old 03-09-2012, 06:41 PM
 
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I think you should just go with your gut.  If you think your son will thrive in this environment then you should go with it!  Esp. if you have been involved with the community for a while, then perhaps it would be a smooth transition for your son?

 

It sounds like it is a good and typical Waldorf school.  There are many resources on the web as you know, you could check out some more stuff anf talk to your family and of course your son and see what works.

 

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Old 03-09-2012, 07:04 PM
 
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we have a school near us and they "advertise" heavily for enrollment at an even we go to often - we have even checked out the school and many of the non-flattering things others have mentioned we encountered as well- we were totally turned off and looking into the program deeper it simply was not in keeping with our child or our desires- so I know how hard it is

 

if you are unsure maybe there is good reason deep down for it- some seem to sing such high praises and we can't say really too much nice about what we encountered, the program it self, not just the school in question we visited   


 

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Old 03-10-2012, 10:01 AM
 
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Saraem, we also went to the best preschool in the world! It was "waldorfy" in it's basics, no academics, just play with very simple toys. But we had two male teachers and an old woman with a very strong character, and they joked around with the kids all the time, and were very warm and affectionate. They let the kids just play and were very good at directing the kids away from playing spiderman and having them invent their own super heros. This became another family for my son, and when he went to public kindergarten, he just missed his old school forever. He said "I wish I could go to a school just like playgroup" I had always adored Waldorf schools and thought, "I think I know a school just like it..." But now that we have visited and thinking about attending... I'm concerned will my son fit in a waldorf classroom, because of the sort of seriousness I felt there too. Will the fairy-like teacher have patience for my goofy son. And it's not even that my son has any problems following orders and being the good guy in the class, but I would hate for him not to be allowed to make silly jokes, draw what ever he want's.

 

My other concern is that he is academically gifted, loves reading and being read to, loves science and facts, rough sports... And waldorf schools really do no books for first graders, science seems a little too based on anthroposophy, spots are eurythmy... i think it would be great environment for him for the next few years, but I want him to get more academics in the future, and feel I should be looking for a permanent place for him now.

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